As automakers have added digital features, they’ve learned the hard way that computers mean computer vulnerabilities. The most extreme example is hackers who figured out how to disable a Jeep’s brakes. Nissan Leaf users don’t have nearly that level of a problem, but the ease of the hack should raise some concerns.
Simply put, if you knew a Nissan Leaf’s vehicle identification number, or VIN, you could hack it. All you needed to do is download the Leaf’s app, which Nissan quickly pulled, plug in the number and you were good to go. The good news is that Nissan was paying attention to potential risks, and the Leaf app wouldn’t let thieves steal your car. That said, you could control the air conditioning from the app and track locations, so if somebody wanted to know where you were and strand you there, they would have had the tools to do so.
This illustrates a growing problem among car manufacturers, who only seem able to understand computers when they can use them to cheat pollution laws. Not even car insurers fully grasp the danger of having your car’s systems hooked up to, and potentially completely controlled by, a computer anybody can access. Until they do, maybe they’d best limit the apps to controlling the radio.